- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. used Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ weekly press briefing last week to tout his own mayoral campaign.

Mr. Williams, who is not seeking re-election, asked the Ward 5 Democrat to explain why a site in Southeast is best for building a baseball stadium.

“I did not bring my props, but let me see what I can come up with,” Mr. Orange said, reaching into his suit pocket for something to represent the South Capitol Street site.

“I do have a ‘Vincent Orange for Mayor’ button,” said a beaming Mr. Orange, who proudly held it up for the TV cameras and set it on the lectern to thunderous laughter.

The briefings are telecast on City Cable 16.

Tainted money

Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. is giving $88,000 in controversial political contributions to nonprofit groups in the Virginia Republican’s 5th Congressional District.

Mr. Goode last week said the contributions from a defense contractor’s employees and political action committee would be donated to nonprofit groups, volunteer fire departments, rescue squads and animal shelters.

“In spite of questions raised by some, these contributions to my re-election committee were valid and proper,” Mr. Goode said of the donations from employees of the now-defunct MZM Inc., which operated facilities in his district, and its PAC.

Mitchell Wade, the contractor’s former president, was implicated last month when Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Republican, acknowledged taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.

Mr. Goode led the list of those receiving MZM-linked donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending.

Nose for news

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams is hale and healthy, despite having a deviated septum — and a mucus-retention cyst.

The Democratic mayor says he learned of the benign nasal cyst last month after a routine CAT scan for a lingering headache. He has yet to decide whether to have it removed.

“So, do I want to go in and get … the septum fixed and the cyst drained — or do I want to just leave it like it is, because it is not causing any symptoms?” he says of his dilemma.

And just think, “Before they had CAT scans, zillions of people lived their entires lives without it even being noticed,” Mr. Williams says.

Taxi fees

The Montgomery County Council will be in charge of setting licensing fees and other charges for the taxicab industry.

The council and County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat, have been sparring over the fees for several months.

Mr. Duncan, who is running for governor next year, thinks that high fees are needed to pay for oversight of the industry.

But council members said the fees were too high for the industry to bear.

Council President George Leventhal, at-large Democrat, said the county has been unsuccessful in recent attempts to increase competition and improve service.

Developing

Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine says he will clash with real estate development interests — the state’s most generous political giver — to ensure that land-use reforms be adopted as part of his transportation package.

“Hey, I’m a lover, not a fighter, but I am very glad to engage in that dialogue, civil disagreement of opinion or battle at any point along the spectrum, because I believe it is in the best interest of Virginia and that industry,” Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, told journalists at the fourth annual AP Day at the Capital.

Allowing localities greater ability to control development and to coordinate their zoning decisions is a major facet of the transportation plans Mr. Kaine will emphasize when he takes office Jan. 14.

The appeal of reining in runaway sprawl also helped him to win unexpected victories last month in the overwhelmingly Republican suburbs in Northern Virginia, where voters are frustrated over persistent and worsening highway gridlock.

“On broad concepts, we can find some agreements, but the devil’s all in the details,” Mr. Kaine said of discussions he’s had with lobbyists for real estate and development interests before his election and since.

“This is not one where there is going to be unanimity at the end of the day and people holding hands,” Mr. Kaine said. “It won’t be easy, but it’s something we’ve got to do.”

I’m staying

Lynchburg Mayor Carl B. Hutcherson Jr. said Friday that he would not resign despite federal fraud charges accusing him of raiding a church charity to pay his debts.

“I am simply not going to let the federal government come into our city and dictate when I leave this job,” he said at a press conference in City Hall.

Mr. Hutcherson, 61, is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 29 in federal court on charges of fraud, lying to federal and bank officials and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors have said they will not seek his incarceration before trial.

Mr. Hutcherson said he would not seek re-election in May, which did not allay concerns among some council members. He was elected by the council to the primarily ceremonial post in 2000.

“I had hoped that Carl would do the right thing and step down from City Council so as to not continue to be the object of distraction for the conduct of city business,” council member Joe Seiffert said. “It is an embarrassment to these residents, to say the least.”

It was not clear whether the council could vote to have Mr. Hutcherson removed.

The seven-count indictment returned Dec. 1 said Mr. Hutcherson and the funeral home he owns were in severe financial difficulty when he took more than $30,000 from a charity connected to the church where he is pastor to pay back taxes and a personal debt.

He owed more than $100,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the indictment.

The indictment also says Mr. Hutcherson was the designated recipient of Social Security funds for two disabled persons, and spent money intended for them on items for himself, including a stereo and television and cable-television service.

Mr. Hutcherson has stepped down temporarily as pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.

If convicted on all seven counts, Mr. Hutcherson would face 105 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine, but federal sentencing guidelines would call for a significantly lighter sentence.

Worlds apart

Virginia state Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax Democrat, and Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican, sat within feet of each other last week, but they were miles away on the proper role of religion in the General Assembly.

Mrs. Howell said Virginians are tired of legislators who ignore critical needs such as transportation to haggle over faith-based issues such as school prayer and homosexual adoption.

Mr. Marshall contended issues such as abortion and marriage are important to many Americans and that those and other social issues should be part of the political debate.

The mix of social and cultural issues and lawmaking shows no signs of simmering down during the 2006 legislative session, Mrs. Howell and Mr. Marshall told journalists at the annual AP Day at the Capital.

Also on the panel was Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

The three grazed topics ranging from the state’s role in marriage to whether public schools should teach creationism.

Mrs. Howell said focusing on faith-based debates over personal issues distracts from what really matters to voters.

She pointed to the defeat of Delegate Richard H. Black, Loudoun Republican and an outspoken opponent of abortion and homosexual rights, as evidence of voters saying enough is enough.

“Overwhelmingly, the people of Virginia are just fed up with the circus going on in Richmond,” Mrs. Howell said.

Mr. Marshall disagreed, contending Mr. Black’s failure to embrace “smart growth” hurt his re-election more than his conservative social agenda.

He pointed to his own success in last month’s elections as evidence that voters still value his views.

Mr. Marshall insisted that without recognizing the need for an ethical compass in lawmaking, “We have no public policy, we have public chaos.”

Mayor on trial

Charles Dougherty, former mayor of Gate City, Va., will be tried on only two of 37 charges of election fraud at his trial in February, a judge has ruled.

Scott County Circuit Judge Birg Sergent made the ruling at a pretrial hearing last week, but said Mr. Dougherty will be tried on the other 35 similar charges separately.

The Feb. 21 trial will focus on two charges involving claims that there was remuneration or some other reward made as compensation for votes in the May 2004 election. Mr. Dougherty won by just two votes in an election with a large number of absentee ballots cast.

The other charges accuse Mr. Dougherty of making false statements on absentee-ballot applications and aiding and abetting in violating election laws to win re-election.

Special prosecutor Joel Branscom argued that one jury should hear all the charges against Mr. Dougherty because they are all related, but Mr. Dougherty’s attorney said a jury would be prejudiced by one trial “because the jury is going to say, ‘If you’ve got all those charges, he’s got to be guilty of at least one of them,’” Carl McAfee said.

Mr. Dougherty, who has remained free on bail since his Aug. 1 indictment, did not attend the hearing, but has maintained his innocence.

He said he mostly cast ballots for elderly people in the election, and that the people had signed affidavits affirming that they couldn’t get to the polls.

Of the 158 absentee ballots cast in the election, 138 were cast for Mr. Dougherty.

Mark Jenkins, Mr. Dougherty’s opponent, challenged the results, and a three-judge panel threw them out. Mr. Jenkins then was appointed mayor by a newly appointed town council.

Back at UVa.

The University of Virginia announced Friday that former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles will become director of the school’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Mr. Baliles, 65, plans to retire in March from the Richmond law firm of Hunton & Williams, where he is a partner. On April 1, he will begin his job at the Miller Center, which studies U.S. and international policy.

“This appointment signals a new direction for one of our most distinguished and productive centers,” UVa. President John T. Casteen III said.

Mr. Baliles, a Democrat, served as governor from 1986 to 1990. He is a 1967 graduate of UVa.’s law school.

The announcement follows a national search to replace Philip D. Zelikow, who left in January to become counselor of the U.S. Department of State.

• Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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